Archive for the ‘Spain’ Category

Around Granada

December 16, 2017

After five days our time in Granada is coming to an end, a lovely stay again with lots to see and do and a very friendly and easy place to find your way around. Our last day was spent seeing a few last sights and also doing a little bit of shopping for a few reminders of our time here.

Church in Centro Sagrario, just behind our apartment .

Plaza Nueva, despite its name (New Plaza) this is the oldest square in Granada and is lined with beautiful old buildings.

San Ildefonso area with decorative roundabout with old town wall in the background.

Albaicín Quarter gateway, which is one of the oldest parts of the city, with narrow winding streets dating back to Moorish times.

View over Granada from the Albaicín Quarter.

There was a a couple of interesting sights around the city such as the following

Artificial grass is laid between the train/tram tracks throughout the city making them look very tidy.

narrow pedestrian-only streets are everywhere off the main thoroughfares which makes it pleasant to walk around the city.

Just behind the information centre we found this beautiful courtyard area.

the above two pictures are of the interesting street lighting.

And after all that sightseeing we just had to reward ourselves with a hot chocolate and some churros

And on the subject of food, one of us had a birthday whilst we were in Granada so what better way to celebrate than with a nice meal out.

Bubbles to start off the evening

And entree was a lovely black sausage dish. The rest of the meal was enjoyed without taking any more photos as we were enjoying the food and atmosphere too much!

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Alhambra

December 6, 2017

One of the main reasons of coming to Granada was to visit the Alhambra. The Alhambra (The Red One) was originally constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications, and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century and is a reflection of the culture of the last centuries of the Moorish rule. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333, then after the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition), and the palaces were partially altered in the Renaissance style. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the buildings were occupied by squatters, Alhambra was rediscovered following the defeat of Napoleon, who had conducted retaliatory destruction of the site. It’s had a very mixed history, with periods of ruin, rebuild, wilful vandalism and some ill-judged restoration nevertheless its stands today as an amazing building decorated with mosaic tiles, carved plaster, intricately carved wood all set around large courtyards with water features.

Lots of photos to follow, but I have to say that photos do not do it justice, it is truly amazing to the extent of sensory overload.

at the entrance is a fountain dedicated to a Washington Irving, author of Rip van Winkle and Legend of Sleepy Hollow as well as many books on Spain, US ambassador to Spain in the early 1800’s.

the entrance gateway has carved over the lintel a pair of hands in prayer,

And inside is another gateway that has a key engraved

It is said that if the key and hands ever meet then the site will be obliterated.

You have to pre book a ticket online to gain access into the Palace, they do not sell tickets at the Alhambra we had booked our tickets the previous night and downloaded it onto my phone. We arrived and queued to gain entry, with access limited to I would guess around 50 people, and entry every 30minutes.

Every surface is intricately covered in patterns either mosaic, scripts, patterns, all elaborately coloured however over time some of the colours have faded but you can imagine how brightly coloured it must have been.

examples of mosaic tiles

carved script and intricate patterns

intricately carved ceilings

Water is an important feature of the Alhambra.

gardens and courtyards are beautifully laid out.

There were so many interesting features that I could go on adding more and more pictures but I think that I have to stop somewhere before this goes on forever. But I will leave you with this one last picture

this is one of the courtyard areas where we stopped to have a drink and where a large number of cats frequent looking for food from visitors. This was just a small sample of the seemingly huge numbers of cats everywhere throughout the complex.

An amazing place to visit and spend a day, it now makes me realise how lacking my history knowledge is for this part of the world which is something I shall have to rectify.

Granada

December 1, 2017

Farewell Seville, it’s been a fantastic stay in your wonderful city. For the final time we bade farewell to our lovely apartment on the Christo de Burgos Square and took a taxi to the train Station. We seem to have frequented this train station fairly frequently over the past few days, however on arrival for the first time we did wonder where we were when we saw this sign.

This trip to Granada was scheduled to be a three and a half hour journey, we were told that the train was only going as far as Antiquera and then we had to change to a bus, apparently they are doing major refurbishment on the tracks.

the journey took us through hundreds of kilometres of olive trees, we estimated at least 300kilometres of non stop olive trees for as far as the eye could see.

After an hour and a half on the train we pulled into Antiquera train station. Antiquera surprised us a little as it is a train station in the middle of nowhere with not another building in sight! We were offloaded from the train and settled into a luxury bus for the rest of the journey. In the car parking area there was this interesting piece of sculpture.

A stack of left luggage, chairs, tv, louvres and other bits and pieces.

The olive trees continued to be our view from the side windows of the bus and there was a tv screen at the front of the bus which showed a continuous stream from the dashboard camera so we could see exactly what was ahead of us. We passed through a town called Manzanil, we presume this is the home of Manzanilla olives.

Another hour and a half later and we arrived at the Granada train station where we caught a cab to our apartment right in the centre of town. We were met by our host and we’re quickly settled in. We found a nice surprise on the bedroom wall

a map of the world with New Zealand included!

this was the view from our apartment window, and yes that is snow on the hills in the background.

Time to step out and find out what is around and about us and to also get in a few basics. We saw some interesting shops including this one.

Jamon, Jamon, and more Jamon.

Jamon is Spanish for ham, this jamon is a dry cured ham from the black Iberian pig and is usually dried and aged for around 18months to 3 years. It really is delicious and I have to admit that we ate more than our fair share! There was also salamis and chorizos of all sorts to be had……eat your heart out Steve!

Córdoba

November 30, 2017

Just a quick note before this post starts, my sister Sue tells me that a programme on TV called “Spectacular Spain with Alex Polizzi” has been on TV in NZ recently and she had just watched an episode on Jerez and Seville. I found the programme on YouTube…it’s episode 4. We shall now have to watch the rest of the series to see what we have missed and what shall go on the agenda for the next trip.

After our successful trip to Jerez, we had planned to spend the following day checking out some more of the sights around Seville but first we needed to take a quick trip to the train station to book and collect our tickets for the following day to Granada, our next destination. Granada tickets were quickly sorted however, whilst we were at the station, we asked purely out of interest how long would a trip to Córdoba take? 45 minutes by fast train we are told, if you want to go, there is a train leaving in 6 minutes…yes please, we said and book us a return ticket as well please. Tickets in hand we hurried to the correct platform with a couple of minutes to spare…talk about spur of the moment decisions!!, this time we had to go through a security check as well, a first so far on our train travels.

Córdoba, like many other Spanish cities, has an Anglicised name of Cordova, and is yet another magnificent city with a rich history encompassing many cultures. As well as being a traditional centre for silk manufacture, it was also a centre of education with universities and medical schools particularly during the Muslim reign from the 8th century through to 1236 when the Christians took over. Córdoba can also lay claim to have the highest summer temperatures in Spain and Europe, with average high temperatures around 37 °C (99 °F) in July and August, however for us it was a pleasant 26C.

Our train journey took us past kilometres of orange trees, then olive trees but as we got closer to the city another change in trees with what we thought were apricot trees with their autumnal colours resplendent but on reflection we think they were more likely to be almond trees.

oranges, almond trees and olives, seen for miles along the journey

Córdoba station was a larger station than we anticipated and a very modern building to boot. We found an information centre within the station and bought ourselves tickets for the hop on-hop off bus which just so happened to have a stop right outside. Perfect.

We had a great tour of the city and we surmised that we could have come and stayed here for sometime to explore everything in depth however an overview would suffice this time. Lots of pictures to follow.

the view from the top of the bus as the driver carefully and skilfully negotiates the narrow streets. In some streets pedestrians had to stand in doorways to let the bus through, in others, shopkeepers had to roll in awnings so that the bus did not hit them.

Calahorra Tower

Roman temple of Córdoba

Santa Marina Church built in the 13th century

Bridal party at Puerta del Puente or Roman Gate by the Roman Bridge.

one of the gates in the old wall around the city the ever present orange trees lining the streets

Detailed statue of San Francisco Church

one of the narrow side streets

moody scenes over the river looking toward the Roman bridge

Roman bridge over the Guadalquivir River, you can see the gate and the mosque in the background. This was the main access point to the city, across the bridge and through the gate.

looking across to the Mosque cathedral

Overlooking the Roman Bridge and next to the Mosque-Cathedral is the Triunfo de San Rafael column, the most elaborate of many devotional columns and images in Córdoba commemorating the Archangel Raphael’s promise to protect its inhabitants.

the other side of the Roman gate

horse and carriage ride anyone?

convent of Saint Ana

Christmas decorations over the shopping streets of Córdoba. Although decorations are being put up all over Spain, none are yet illuminated, this does not happen until December.

anyone for a helter-skelter ride? Seen in one of the streets in the centre of Córdoba.

Córdoba is one of the few cities in the world that has a near-exact antipodal city, namely Hamilton in New Zealand, but surprisingly the cities are not twinned.

We wandered the back streets admiring the sights however our time was running out so with a quick sprint via taxi we were back at the train station ready to return for our last evening in Seville before tomorrow’s journey to Granada.

Jerez

November 27, 2017

Whilst we are here in Seville, we are pretty close to Jerez or so it seems so why not take a day trip to Jerez? With a bit of research we found that a trip to Jerez, the home of sherry, was just a 55 minute train ride from Sevilla and that a couple of bodegas (wine tasting) were within a reasonable walking distance from the station, so we thought let’s do it.

Jerez is best known for its sherry, Andalucian horses, and flamenco as well as motorcycles apparently.

This time it was the high speed train we were on with no stops along the way, hence that is why it was such a relatively short journey time wise. We were in Jerez at the very pretty train station before we knew it.

The view from the platform

Inside the station

With the aid of Google maps we found our way to the first bodega that we had identified earlier. We arrived there just 10 minutes before their next tour and tastings were scheduled, did we wish to go on that tour culminating in a tasting session of 12 different sherries? Wow, that sounds pretty damn good to us. We waited for the tour to begin the the vine covered courtyard area.

I have to admit that looking back over the photos and trying to remember all that we were told on the tour through the winery and the process of making sherry, it has all become a bit of a blur…I blame all that tasting at the end of the tour!

The cathedral-like winery building has been used for the sherry making business for a few hundred years, they have been oriented specifically to ensure that the cooler moist west wind could pass though the buildings taking the warmer air out through the high windows which are positioned and shaped to keep the sun out with some having special curtains which can be moistened to cool the temperature as well as assisting with humidity. Sherry needs plenty of air to develop the yeasts that form to give sherry its characteristics. The floor is made of “albero” a rough sandy clay soil that absorbs humidity and is kept moist by spraying with water to reduce transpiration.

Barrels are lined up in long rows, just three barrels high with the young wines on the top going down to the older biological wines on the lower levels, with the winemaker choosing when to decant from one to another as the younger wine provides the yeast needed to develop the wine so it is constantly being tested, tasted and moved.

Table and stools set up for tasting sessions

Some of the different varieties of sherry and some barrels being repaired.

Through out the tour we were told of the differing varieties of sherry and how they are made. Now this is not the old style sweet “nana” sherry that you can buy by the flagon in NZ, it’s a very complex and varied style of wine. Personally, I particularly enjoy a very dry Fino sherry as an aperitif, and as well we particularly enjoy a Pedro Ximénez sherry – one of the main reasons we came to Jerez, to find out more about this dark, unctuous, delectable delight. After introducing my brother John and his partner Jude to Pedro (as we now refer to the drink) we all take great delight in sharing the old tipple or three!!!

Next it was on to the tastings, 12, tastings we are told…..phew, this is going to be fun, I had to get my notebook out to makes notes so that I would not forget what we were having. We started with the dry fino, then the amontillado, oloroso variants. Then we were given two vermouths to try, one white, one red, which they also make by adding various herbs to the different wines. Now they were both a surprise and we enjoyed them both. Then it was onto the Moscatel and then the Pedro Ximénez including a 30year old Pedro. One thing we did learn is that traditionally Pedro is usually served chilled from the fridge and warmed up to room temperature as you sip on it.

the glasses and wines lined up with my notebook at the forefront.

and the final two wines to try. Amazing!

Two very happy kiwis staggered out of the bodega later that afternoon, and yes, we did buy a little to bring home with us…….and yes, we may even allow you to share it with us John & Jude!!! Salud.

Just along the road we found this well known branda favourite tipple of my parents!

the Harvey’s Wine storage facility. However, we didn’t venture in as by this time it was late in the afternoon when most things close for a couple of hours, besides, we needed some sustenance.

and the orange trees lining the streets. We are told that all these oranges that line every street are ones you cannot eat which we presume are the Seville Oranges that are so good for marmalade.

We found a small cafe serving tapas near the train station and enjoyed three lovely dishes, this time comprising of braised Iberian pork cheeks, a cold potato salad and a mix of croquetas. They were each delicious and a pleasant surprise as the cafe was just a tiny wee place that looked a little weary but the food and service was fantastic.

Time for just a quick wander around before we head back on the train to Seville for our last night and yes, back to our favourite bar and restaurant just down the road from the apartment for another great night and the perfect end to another wonderful day.

Sevilla

November 26, 2017

Another very pleasant train journey from Huelva to Sevilla, this time passing through what seemed like thousands of acres of oranges and olive groves as well as vegetable crops and glasshouses. We must say that the Spanish do know how to do train travel, with comfortable seating, plenty of room and up to date information on the screens.

As you can see we were heading to Sevilla Santa Justa, travelling at 136km/hr at that moment (it did get up to 165kph), the temperature a balmy 25C, this was about two thirds of the way through our trip.

We arrived at Sevilla main train station and caught a cab to our lovely apartment where our host Antonio greeted us and showed us in. We are staying again right in the centre of town in an older apartment block that is just three stories high and set around a large central courtyard, very Moorish in its design. After our quick familiarisation, it was a trip to the supermarket to get some basics before we headed just 50metres along the road to a local tapas bar that Antonio had recommended, as he said it was a place that he ate at and mostly locals frequented, sounds perfect. All the tapas plates were priced at around the €2.50 mark, we made a few choices and waited to see what would be presented.

But first a note about prices, we tend not to compare costs to NZ dollars, we have Euro€ and think of everything as 1 NZ$ equaling 1€ or 1£. The only time we compared prices was in Switzerland using the Swiss franc but even then we compared the franc with the euro or the pound. It’s all about when in Rome…. now back to the tapas!

my goodness, how delicious were these dishes! Sardines, peppers, tomatoes, patatas bravas, pate, deep fried goats cheese and croquetas.

Vowing to return again soon, we made our way home for the evening.

A tour around the city was in order for the following day to familiarise ourselves with Sevilla and where we would want to see in greater detail later. But first of all the early riser headed to the local market for a look, and yes I did visit the market with him later in the morning.

The array of fruit, vegetables, meat and fish was impressive, especially the fish roe which reminded us of Gary who we know loves eating this delicacy as whenever we have been fishing with him and there is roe in the fish, it is quickly put to one side for a delicious treat to be cooked up later.

Also of interest was this large tank of live snails,

Hmmm, one thing I am not particularly keen on is snails.

Off now for our trip around Sevilla to see the sights. Sevilla has a long and varied history being settled by the Phonecians, then Romans, Arabs and then Christians with all of these cultures having an influence on the city in both the architecture as well as the people.

Clockwise from Top L: Torre del Oro, Giralda, Arenal (bull fighting arena), Maria Luisa Parque buildings.

Clockwise from Top L: The wide open boulevards lined with orange trees, Costurero de la Reina, the Guadalquivir River, La Palmera.

It was hard to choose just a few buildings from all the photos we have but we have to stop somewhere. There really is a variety of styles, cultures and even materials used in construction but what it has started to show is how little we know about the rich long history and culture of Spain. Something I need to redress.

At the end of a long day of sightseeing what better way to end it than with churros and hot chocolate.

On our way back to our abode we stopped to have a look at the new “mushroom” structure recently built in the centre of Sevilla, or Metropol Parasol as it is officially known.

it certainly is an innovative and interesting structure in amongst the old buildings. Apparently it is the largest wooden structure in the world and was finally completed in 2009 but not without controversy in design, construction, technical difficulties and of course budget overruns.

We arrived back at our apartment in time to freshen up a little ready to go out to Coloniales, the tapas bar where we are becoming known. Again we tried a few more tapas from the extensive selection, enjoying every single selection. Just as we had finished our meal and asked for our bill, our waiter said no, no, no….wait please, and then presented us with a complimentary local liqueur made from cherries!

Not a bad way to end the day.

Meeting a Kiwi in Huelva

November 24, 2017

Our brief stay in Faro was coming to an end, we have enjoyed our time here but it’s time to keep moving – so many places to see, things to do, and time creeps on. We are unable to catch a train out of Faro this time as trains between Portugal and Spain are non existent here, however there is a bus service, but we are very fortunate that we are being picked up by a friend, Michael.

We met Michael 3 years ago when it was our first year of being hosts at Shakespear Park where Michael was a Summer Ranger that year. He frequently called in to have dinner with us whilst we were camping so we got to know him reasonably well, now it was our turn to call in on him! Michael is teaching English in Huelva which is about an hours drive from Faro and he offered to drive over and pick us up.

We arranged to meet by a restaurant near the marina in Faro at 11am, I got a message from Michael at 10am to say that he had arrived as he had forgotten about the 1hour time difference between Portugal and Spain. We were already at the restaurant ready and waiting so time to head off.

We had a lovely trip across into Spain, not that you realise that you are crossing borders apart from a small sign. Michael was a very good tour guide pointing out sights along the way. Once arriving on the outskirts of Huelva, we headed out to a beach that Michael has found which is mainly deserted, the locals think that it is winter therefore it’s cold….yes, it is only 22C today….so they don’t go to the beach.

Roy & Michael on the beach

spot the crowds (and spot a cloud, we haven’t seen any for weeks now!).

After a quick tour of the town, Michael dropped us off at our hotel in town so we could settle in, have a siesta and we were to meet up later in the early evening. We are starting to get into the Spanish way of life….lunch around 2-3pm and then think about dinner at 8-9pm, oh wait, we don’t usually have lunch back at home until around 2pm or later so perhaps we already work on Spanish time!

Christopher Columbus statue in the main square

We headed out along the Main Street to find a tapas bar for dinner and to catch up with all the news and happenings. Michael did the ordering for us as our Spanish is almost non existent however we do try! Much to the hilarity of locals. We had a lovely dinner of many different things including a plate of the famous Iberian Jamon and some cuttlefish, also a local delicacy – they were both delicious.

We arranged to meet up again the following morning as Michael had to go to the next town for some paperwork issuing so we were going to tag along for the ride.

With his paperwork sorted in two minutes we then headed for Palos de la Frontera, not far from Huelva and is famous as this was where Christopher Columbus set sail from in 1492 eventually reaching America. We were hoping to visit the Christopher Columbus museum and see the replicas of his three ships, the Santa Maria, the Pinto and the Nina. Along the way there was this statue to Columbus on the riverbank.

We arrived at the museum to find that it was closed on Mondays….typical. Never mind we could see the ships from the wharf further around.

With the largest ship only 60ft in length, they weren’t large ocean going vessels.

The entrance to the museum is also a wetland reserve, there was a large picture sign at the entrance showing the birds we may be able to see, many of which looked very familiar

Especially the Pukeko at the bottom third from the right! We were surprised to find them here, they are also found around Faro and we were surprised to find that the bird is the symbol for that region!

Boats were moored in the shallows nearby

After a stop for a drink, it was time for Michael to drop us off at the rail station. With fond farewells we hope to see you again in NZ Michael, perhaps even at Shakespear??